The first frost of the season occurred in most parts of the Bemidji area this past week. Surface water temperatures in the lakes are in the mid-50s, which is the point where fall movements of fish are at their peak.
Walleye anglers have been finding walleyes anywhere from the outside edge of the weeds all the way down to where the hard bottom turns to mud.
The deeper walleyes go, the more visible they become on sonar. Some anglers like to run their boats until they see fish on sonar before putting their lines in the water.
Knowing how to read sonar including the side imaging feature allows anglers to see not only what is below the boat, but what is out to the sides of the boat, without actually driving over the fish.
Anglers are able to choose how far out to the side of the boat they are looking with side imaging and pick whether they want to view one or both sides of the boat.
It can be very helpful to go out in a boat with someone who knows how to read the side imaging and sonar correctly, to help shorten the learning curve.
Most walleye anglers like to fish a jig and minnow in the fall, but there is more than one way to fish a jig than just dragging the jig and minnow behind the boat.
Holding the boat in one position either by anchoring or by using the spot lock feature on a trolling motor to fan cast in every direction to fish the area more thoroughly.
Anglers can stop and hold the boat when they catch a fish or they can look with sonar and mark a pod of fish and position their boat strategically to cast all around the spot.
It is important for anglers to remember where they cast each time when fancasting, so they can cast to the same spot if they catch a fish or miss a bite or they can cast to a new spot if they don’t get a bite.
Anglers using an anchor have to get on the right spot without dragging the anchor through the fish and still get close enough to reach the fish.
Some anglers like to use the lightest jigs they can, but there is another school of thought that says to use a heavier jig to cast further and have better control over the jig and also have better feel of the bottom and the bites.
Walleye anglers in the Bemidji area have gotten used to being able to make constant contact with the bottom when they are fishing for walleyes.
Zebra mussel shells have sharp edges, so they can cut anglers lines when they make contact with the bottom. Anglers need to check their line frequently and re-tie more often when fishing waters infested with zebra mussels.
Instead of dragging the jig or sinker right on the bottom, anglers can test the bottom occasionally to get a feel of where the bottom is located, but try to keep the jigs or sinkers slightly off the bottom to avoid the zebra mussels.
Crappies continue to be active in deep water in many lakes. Anglers are able to catch crappies during the day in the fall, which makes them popular with anglers.
Crappies are usually suspended anywhere from a couple feet off the bottom to 10 or more feet off the bottom, depending on the lake. Crappies located closer to the bottom are usually easier to catch than crappies that are suspended further from the bottom. High riding crappies also tend to be easier to spook.
Crappie anglers should try to hold their boat over the fish and present their baits vertically at or slightly above eye level of the fish.
Sunfish can be mixed with the crappies in some lakes, with the sunfish often located closer to the bottom than the crappies.
Crappies can be caught on minnows or small artificial lures while sunfish prefer wax worms, leech pieces or small pieces of night crawler on an ice jig or tiny jigging spoon.